Saturday TUDOR Challenge notebook: Keating and crew's busy weekend

Viper team heading to Le Mans for practice after Detroit race.

Ben Keating got a worldwide weekend of racing in Detroit and testing in Le Mans off to a strong start Friday with a personal-best qualifying effort in the No. 33 ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper GT3-R for the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Belle Isle.

Keating qualified second for the 100-minute sprint with a lap time of 1:34.261 (89.751 mph) in the GT Daytona (GTD) class. He and teammate Jeroen Bleekemolen will co-drive the Viper in today’s Detroit race and then fly straight to Le Mans, France, after the checkered flag to participate in Sunday’s Pre-Test for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, June 13-14.

“I am really happy with the front-row start,” Bleekemolen said. “Ben did a really nice job in qualifying, very nice laps, and that is a result we can build on. Practice was also quite good, we had both running in the dry and the wet and we both got pretty comfortable. So, if we don’t have bad luck we should be able to have a good result here.”

In addition to being a winning Viper race car driver, Keating also is the principal of ViperExchange.com, the world’s largest Viper retailer.

“You can’t get much more Detroit than the Dodge Viper,” Keating said. “One of the things that really makes it exciting is that not only is the Viper born in Detroit, but the Viper is the only American car in the GT Daytona class. Yes, you have the Corvette racing in GT Le Mans (GTLM), but the only American-made car in GTD is a Detroit child, the Viper, built right here in the Motor City.”

HOME TRACK ADVANTAGE: Christian Fittipaldi led a Corvette Daytona Prototype sweep of the top three positions in qualifying Friday for the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic with a Prototype lap record at the Raceway on Belle Isle Park.

With Chevrolet’s world headquarters overlooking the track, Fittipaldi set a time of 1:24.746 (99.828 mph) in Action Express Racing’s No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP. He outpaced Wayne Taylor Racing’s Ricky Taylor by just 0.050 seconds in a close battle. Corvette DP teams took four of the top five positions in qualifying for the fifth round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

“It was a great qualifying battle between the Corvette DPs of Christian Fittipaldi and Ricky Taylor,” said Jim Lutz, Chevrolet Program Manager for Corvette Daytona Prototypes. “Congratulations to Christian and Action Express Racing for taking Chevrolet’s fourth consecutive pole position on Belle Isle. We are optimistic of another great result for Chevrolet in Saturday’s race – rain or shine.”

The Corvette DP is unbeaten on Belle Isle in three previous races and finished 1-2 in each Belle Isle round. Fittipaldi is the fourth consecutive Corvette DP driver to claim pole position in Chevrolet’s home event.

NEW IMSA APP: Ford and Mazda are the latest auto manufacturers to join the new IMSA mobile app, which launched earlier this month. Ford and Mazda join as official partners alongside BMW, Chevrolet and Porsche.

The app is available now on the app store for iOS, Android and Windows devices.

The base experience includes series news, videos and team and driver bios. The app truly comes to life during race weekends, allowing users to stream video and IMSA Radio audio, as well as view complete live timing and scoring.

Live offerings include steaming video of races (where available) for the TUDOR Championship and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, along with IMSA Radio and live timing and scoring for all official sessions of the two series. During TUDOR Championship events, streaming in-car video and qualifying offers a unique experience to IMSA mobile app users.

SHANK OPTIMISTIC: Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian will start sixth in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic after John Pew put the car on the third row of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship grid in a quick 15-minute qualifying session Friday evening. The result was a welcome one for the team which made big gains to the No. 60 Honda-powered Ligier JS P2.

“We didn’t start out in the best place setup wise with the car this morning - we didn’t think the bumps would be as bad as they were, so we worked through that in practice,” said Pew, who will open today’s race before handing the car over to Ozz Negri.

“Then we had the rain after that in the next practice which will be good for the race if it does rain. We put our heads together and really thought about what to do with Dale (Wise, Engineer) and Ozz (Negri). We all talked and made big, big improvements to the car. There is still some more that we can improve and I think we have a good racecar. I’m very happy with how we improved today.”

“We did very well in the wet conditions this afternoon and maybe even better in the rain than in the dry,” laughed Negri, who celebrated his birthday at the track on Friday. “I’m really looking forward to the race whether it is in the dry or wet. We took a really big swing on set up for qualifying and the session showed that we went the right direction. John (Pew) did an outstanding job. You can’t imagine how hard it is to drive this car especially at a track like this and he did an absolutely outstanding job.”

PARK PLACE MOMENTUM: Following a first win for the entire organization just four weeks ago, Park Place Motorsports drivers Patrick Lindsey and Spencer Pumpelly head into this weekend’s event in search of continued momentum.

“After taking our first victory, I think we’re all quietly hoping the flood gates have opened,” stated team owner and driver Patrick Lindsey. “It’s been such a long time coming, I think in many ways the pressure is off and we can just focus on the racing in front of us. Last year we showed a lot of potential at Detroit, and in many ways this race is unfinished business for us.”

During last year’s event, the team took top Porsche honors in qualifying, just missing the pole position, but in a prime position to contend for victory. Unfortunately, a mishap on a restart caused irreparable damage to the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports / Children’s Tumor Foundation Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Lindsey’s 2015 co-driver, Spencer Pumpelly, took pole position during last year’s event with another team, and led for much of the race until a late race incident.

“Detroit is an incredibly unique event, and we’re very optimistic,” said Pumpelly. “It was a great feeling to help deliver the team their first win, and we all showed potential at last year’s race, so in many ways Saturday will be unfinished business for all of us.”

PROUD PARTNER: IMSA announced a partnership with worldwide motorsport insurance provider Lockton MIS Motorsport. The multi-year agreement makes Lockton MIS Motorsport a Proud Partner of IMSA and a Promotional Partner of the TUDOR Championship.

Lockton MIS Motorsport is the leading global brand in motorsport insurance and the largest trusted provider of insurance solutions to the industry. Operating out of offices in England and USA, Lockton MIS Motorsport is a market leader in the UK, Europe and Far East and is a recognized brand across every market segment from Formula One to karting.

“We are delighted about our partnership with IMSA and the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which include some of the best races in the business,” said Dermot Hanafin, partner of Lockton MIS Motorsport. “We know that they will hold us to our promise to deliver excellent advice and service.”

TRG-AMR BUSINESS FORUM: TRG-AMR, which competes in the TUDOR Championship GTD class, is offering its third in a series of motorsports business forums designed to help companies discover ways to leverage motorsports and VIP experiences as part of their comprehensive marketing programs and field sales strategy. The forum will include expert panels, audience Q&A, and roundtables to discuss emerging best practices for cutting through the clutter in long sales cycles to build relationships and accelerate lead conversion to revenue. This one takes place in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina July 20-21. More details at TRG-AstonMartinRacing.com.

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About this article
Series IMSA
Event Detroit
Track The Raceway on Belle Isle
Drivers John Pew , Patrick Lindsey , Ben Keating
Article type Breaking news
Tags cadillac, chevrolet, ford, honda